Scientists at the University of Florence in Italy say that they have gained fresh insights into how pollution and cigarette smoke damage airways.
Lead researcher Pierangelo Geppetti has revealed that the research team studied the effects of chemicals found in cigarette smoke on guinea pig airways.
The researchers believe that such new insights may help develop therapeutics to combat pollution- and smoke-related diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic asthma
During the study, chemicals found in cigarette smoke were shown to activate signalling in nerves that ended in the airways of guinea pigs.
The researchers could abolish the effects they observed by using a molecule that inhibited a protein known as TRPA1.
Consistent with a central role for TRPA1 in sensing chemicals in cigarette smoke, no signaling in nerves that end in the airways was observed in mice lacking TRPA1 after exposure to the chemicals in cigarette smoke.
The study also revealed that alpha,beta-unsaturated aldehydes were the chemicals that activated TRPA1, suggesting that such chemicals might contribute to the airway damage that occurs in smoke-related diseases.